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Johns Hopkins swim coach Kennedy announces retirement on President's Day

George Kennedy will step down as Johns Hopkins men's and women's swimming coach after this season.
George Kennedy will step down as Johns Hopkins men's and women's swimming coach after this season. (courtesy of Johns Hopkins University/Baltimore Sun)

Johns Hopkins men's and women's swim coach George Kennedy announced Monday that he intends to retire at the end of the 2015-16 season and will leave on June 30.

During his 31 years there, Kennedy's teams won 373 dual meets and 24 conference titles and produced 29 national champions and more than 1,400 All-Americans. At the NCAA championships, the Blue Jays have earned 46 top-10 finishes and 19 top-five finishes.

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Kennedy was also a part of the 28 consecutive conference titles won by the men's program from 1971 through 1998. At the time, that streak was tied for the third-longest in any sport in Division III history.

"This is an emotional and difficult decision," Kennedy said in a statement. "While there is never a good time for such an announcement, I know that this is the right time. [Previous head coaches] Frank Comfort [from 1968-77] and Tim Welsh [1977-85] set the bar extremely high, and we worked hard to attract the best and brightest swimmers to Johns Hopkins.

"This is the best job in the country, and the relationships I have developed with the athletes, fellow coaches, our staff and all of the administrators were the best part of my time at Johns Hopkins."

Kennedy has been recognized as the NCAA Division III National Coach of the Year seven times. In 2012, Kennedy won the Richard E. Steadman Award, which is given annually by the International Swimming Hall of Fame, Inc., the College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) and the CSCAA Forum to a swimming or diving coach at the high school, club, or university level who has done the most to spread happiness in swimming and diving.

Kennedy called the Steadman honor his favorite in his career.

"Ultimately, the goal for every coach is to establish what is called 'the silver bullet' – 100 percent buy-in so that the athletes believe in themselves, their teammates, and the program," he said. "I am leaving a team that is all-in, and they are ready for this change in direction."

Athletic director Tom Calder called Kennedy the "best swimming coach in the nation."

"George Kennedy is the best swimming coach in the nation and has been recognized by his peers as the NCAA Division III Coach of the Year seven times," said Calder, who is stepping down as athletic director after 21 years. "He will be sorely missed by everyone in the Johns Hopkins University Athletics Department and also by all those who have been fortunate to get to know him on a personal basis. I wish George and his wife, Helen, all the best as they finally get to do some things they have put aside for so many years, and I look forward to seeing him at future JHU events."

Kennedy was a four-year letter winner at the University of North Carolina and an NCAA Division I qualifier in the 100-yard backstroke. After graduating in 1977, he remained with the Tar Heels to earn his master's degree in physical education and serve as an assistant on the coaching staff. In 1980, he became head coach of the men's and women's swimming teams at Gettysburg College, where he collected an impressive 77-31-2 dual meet record in five seasons.

Kennedy lives in Towson with Helen. They have two daughters, Catherine, a graduate of Mary Washington, and Sarah, a graduate of North Carolina.

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